Description and digitization of precious book covers as independent works of art

FundingGerman Research Foundation (DFG)
Project term01/11/2014 – 30/04/2018
Extended until October 2018
Contact addressesProject management and project coordination:
Dr. Carolin Schreiber
carolin.schreiber@bsb-muenchen.de
Dr. Caroline Smout
caroline.smout@bsb-muenchen.de

Art-historical description of Western adorned bindings:
Dr. Caroline Smout
caroline.smout@bsb-muenchen.de


As plastic works of art, book bindings assume a special position between the text-oriented collections of the libraries and the object-related historical art collections. In the DFG project "Description and digitization of precious book covers as independent works of art" a corpus of 59 Western goldwork bindings of the Middle Ages and the modern era and 96 Tibetan book covers from the collections of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek are used as a basis for developing templates for modular standards for describing these independent objects of art. In an accompanying, camera-based workflow, the objects are digitized taking account of the results of the prior analysis. A number of select objects from the two bodies are additionally thoroughly analysed by the Institute of Conservation and Restoration (IBR) of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek applying material-scientific and art-technological methods.

Tibetan book covers

In Tibet and other regions of central and southern Asia manuscripts of important religious texts of Buddhism were handled carefully by wrapping the book block in the landscape format (partly with birch bark or palm leaves as material written on) in a cloth, placing the wrapped block between covers and holding these together by winding a strap around. Out of respect of the holy contents of the writings, the book covers were elaborately adorned. Covers that were artistically carved from wood or embossed in copper plate, partly gilded or painted, were also created for ceremonial events. In the cultural and artistic heritage of Tibet, these covers are almost as important as Thangkas (scroll paintings) or sculptures. Many covers have been preserved without the associated manuscript and are collected by libraries and museums. The degree of wear of some three-dimensional elements on these covers permits the conclusion that the book covers themselves became cult objects.

While around half of the collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has been described in exhibition catalogues, the remaining covers have not been catalogued either formally or with regard to content so far – by the exception of short entries in the repertory of the Codices orientales of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. A suitable description standard, which also does justice to the iconography of the Tibetan book covers in particular, is consequently as urgently desirable as supra-regional, digital cataloguing and presentation systems customized for this type of object.

Overview of the objects in the Digital Collections

Western adorned bindings in goldwork or silverwork technique

In the field of Western adorned bindings, splendidly designed goldwork bindings with precious stones, gems, pearls, ivory or enamel on embossed gold or silver in particular are associated with the classical collection material of museums. Such bindings frequently adorn liturgical manuscripts and form part of the most elaborate pieces of plastic art of their time. One particular characteristic of this genre of art and a challenge for its description is to also incorporate other, partly considerably older works of art in the form of spolia, which were removed from their original context, partly disassembled and incorporated prominently into the newly designed book binding. In addition, the objects have been massively interfered with repeatedly in the course of time, which was partly understood as a restoration measure at the time. It is required to also document these changes made in the course of the centuries appropriately.

Overview of the objects in the Digital Collections

Project publications

The results of the art historical indexing of the Western goldwork bindings and Tibetan book covers and of the material-scientific and art-technological analysis can be found under:

https://einbaende.digitale-sammlungen.de/Prachteinbaende/Hauptseite
 

Schreiber, Carolin: Tagungsbericht: Abschlusstagung des DFG-Projekts „Erschließung und Digitalisierung von Prachteinbänden als eigenständige Kunstobjekte“. In: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie 64 (2018), 4 p. 203-211.

Pfändtner, Karl-Georg; Schreiber, Carolin: Das DFG-Projekt "Erschließung und Digitalisierung von Prachteinbänden als eigenständige Kunstobjekte an der BSB München" – ein Zwischenbericht. In: Einbandforschung 39 (2016), p. 6–24.

Pfändtner, Karl-Georg: Neue Erkenntnisse zum Einband des Evangeliars Otto III. In: Codices Manuscripti & Impressi 105 (2016), p. 1–8.

Allscher, Thorsten: Mikroskopische und spektroskopische Untersuchungen der Prachteinbände von mittelalterlichen Evangelienbüchern aus den Sammlungen der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. Vortrag Archäometrie und Denkmalpflege 2016, Jahrestagung an der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen 28. September – 01. Oktober 2016. In: Metalla. Sonderheft 8 (2016), p. 61–63.

Mindermann, Simon; Allscher, Thorsten: An investigation of the Tibetan book covers from the collections of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Munich by FTIR and Raman spectroscopy. 11th Infrared and Raman Users Group Conference, 05. – 07. November 2014, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Schreiber, Carolin: Beschreibungsstandards für Prachteinbände – Bericht aus einem DFG-Projekt. Vortrag eingereicht zum 106. Deutschen Bibliothekartag (30. Mai – 02. Juni 2017).

Allscher, Thorsten: Extreme Close-up: Neuer Blick auf Prachteinbände: Materialwissenschaft und Kunsttechnologie an der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bayerische Staatszeitung 20/01/2017

Workshops

  • Expert discussion on the project part "Tibetan book covers" within the framework of the DFG project "Description and digitization of precious book covers as independent works of art", 10 June 2016, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
    Programme of the expert discussion on 10 June 2016  (PDF, 375 KB)
  • Expert discussion on the project part "Western adorned bindings" within the framework of the DFG project "Description and digitization of precious book covers as independent works of art", 25 November 2016, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
    Programme of the expert discussion on 25 November 2016  (PDF, 91 KB)
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